July 22, 2020
Yesterday, U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) introduced the Agricultural Security Risk Review Act, legislation that would formally place the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary as a member of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). The Agricultural Security Risk Review Act ensures that CFIUS is operating effectively and efficiently to determine if a transaction, including agricultural, threatens to impair the national security of the United States.
“With bad actors like China, who already have a track record of manipulating strategic acquisitions to benefit themselves, it is our duty here in Congress to protect America’s national security, including threats to our food supply,” Inhofe said. “That’s why I am proud to introduce the Agricultural Security Risk Review Act alongside Senator Tillis, a bill that would make the Secretary of USDA an official member of CFIUS to ensure the safety and security of American agriculture. As a proud Oklahoman, I know how important the agricultural industry is to our state and nation and I will continue to fight for this industry’s values in Congress.”
“CFIUS plays a crucial role in determining whether our national security is threatened by foreign investment, and protecting our nation’s food supply is critical to our national security,” said Tillis. “Including the Secretary of Agriculture as a member of CIFIUS is long overdue. This legislation would remove unnecessary hurdles to include the USDA in these decisions and strengthen the security of America’s agricultural system.”
“We applaud Sen. Tillis and Sen. Inhofe for their leadership on this issue and Farm Bureau welcomes the addition of the Secretary of Agriculture to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States,” said the American Farm Bureau Federation. “This positive reform will help assure that the outlook of U.S. farmers and ranchers is included in the review of foreign investment in our economy.”
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) is an interagency committee that reviews potential national security threats of foreign investment in the United States. CFIUS consists of nine members, chaired by the Secretary of the Treasury, and includes the Secretaries of State, Defense, Homeland Security, Commerce, and Energy, the United States Trade Representative, the Attorney General, and the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy.
CFIUS members informally screen proposed foreign investments into the United States before launching a formal review. Currently, in order for the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to be included in investigations, the Secretary of the Treasury must designate USDA as a part of the review. Without this designation, USDA does not participate in any of the review process and is not consulted in the CFIUS recommendation to the President.
Foreign ownership of U.S. farmland and agricultural businesses has steadily increased. The growing concentration of foreign investment in the U.S. agricultural sector should necessitate that expert analysis of this sector be available to the Committee. CFIUS has the authority to review food and agricultural transactions to ensure the safety and resiliency of U.S. food supply but lacks the agricultural expertise of USDA in the review process.
Congressman Frank Lucas (OK-03) and Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (OH-11) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
“I am excited to see Sen. Tillis and Sen. Inhofe introduce the Senate companion to my bill H.R. 6540- the Agriculture Security Risk Review Act. This legislation works to ensure that foreign investment in our nation’s agricultural sector is given the appropriate amount of scrutiny needed to protect and maintain our national security,” said Congressman Frank Lucas (OK-03). “The American people have seen firsthand how great the need for increased oversight of foreign investment in our nation’s food supply chain is during the COVID-19 pandemic. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and the Senate to get this bill passed and signed into law.”